Yesterday, which unfolded into a glorious day drenched in sunshine with balmy temperatures that felt more like May than March, I visited a favorite riverine woodland a mile or so up the road. The freshet-full stream nearby hummed merrily along. Bankside willow tangles seemed filled with whistling cardinals. A stately heron wade-fished the murky shallows.
Yet it wasn't birds that drew me. Rather, I came here, as I do each year, because of the winter aconites which carpet the earth in cadmium yellow. But this time around I'm late, because the flowers have been in bloom for at least a month.
Winter aconites always bloom early—before the crocus in my yard, before the skunk cabbage at the corner of a nearby bog, and weeks before the snow trilliums in the hillside woods a few miles from here. The only common garden flower that rivals their precociousness is the snowdrop, though its milky-white flowers blends in with the season and can seem rather a part of the winter landscape, while the aconite's gleaming yellow-gold seems, like Dorothy's road to Oz, to be leading the way to a more exciting place.
I don't know who planted the original bulbs, or when—though it must have been long ago, for the low-growing plants and their bright cupped flowers have now spread to encompass several acres of moist, humus-rich floodplain. But whoever it was, and whenever they did it, I now give thanks for their farsighted gift.
Some years, when the winter has been harsh and shows no signs of relaxing it's grip upon the land—my visits here are all that keeps me going; the well from which I draw my cup of faith. It's annual attraction for me is as a place of reaffirmation to the eventual certainty of a changing season. Other years, during that fitful interregnum when winter is reluctantly turning to spring, the yellow blooms serve to simply reiterate the looming equinox and better days beyond.
However, this strange year, when winter atypically failed to materialize, the impetus to visit was obviously not fueled by any sense of seasonal desperation or need to bolster my waning faith. Which is why I've been slow in making my rounds. Instead, I wanted to wait for the perfect day to heed the vernal desire to again walk among the huge old sycamores on this cheery aconite mantle.